Is end-of-life regret brewing within you?

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

The No. 2 regret people lament at the end of their life? I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Given all the things people could possibly regret when looking back at the lives they lived, this is an extraordinarily powerful and telling statement. And for those who have a lot of life still to live, this potential reality from the end of life points toward the wisdom in taking a different and more mindful approach to work and business.

The people who expressed this deep-seated regret acknowledged spending too much time on the treadmill of work while sacrificing valuable time with their spouses, children, extended family, friends and even themselves. They also allowed their personal dreams and lifetime adventures outside of success pass them by. The profound truth is that once they’re gone, these moments and experiences can never be recaptured.

During a discussion, a successful businessman asked about my summer vacation. I told him how I turned my business off for three weeks to focus on time with my wife. He replied with obvious regret in his voice, “I wish I could say that.” This type of wishful thinking is the very foundation of a silent and growing regret that must be caught early and turned around. If it isn’t, it will likely lead to behaviors that will become a top regret at the end of life.

There’s a common and prevailing mantra in business about making as much money as you possibly can and becoming successful. There’s no doubt that being as profitable as you can and standing tall above your competitors is a primary aim in business. The question is:  at what cost?

A business owner whose sole focus is on making as much money as possible typically believes their team members should have the same focus. By forgetting these people also have lives, hopes, dreams and desires, owners come to demand more and more. The reason is simple: When the focus is solely on success and the accumulation of wealth, happiness and well-being are discounted and forgotten.

The thought of becoming wildly successful financially — and the recognition that goes with it — can be addicting because it feeds the ego. As with any addiction, it can take over, blinding us to the bigger picture of life and all it has to offer. When this happens, it creates a situation in which we’re out of balance, ultimately limiting the very happiness and success we strive to attain.

One aspect of my work with business owners is to help them see the bigger picture of their lives — to discover what they value and if what they’re sacrificing in their pursuit of success is truly acceptable.

Once my clients develop solid skills to balance their work and lives, they begin to make different choices in how they allocate their time. Through this fundamental change, they come to experience a more profound form of success — one that still includes financial gain (often more than ever before), but which isn’t a driving force in life. In turn, there’s a trickle down effect on their team members as their work and life balance is encouraged and supported.

It’s important to understand that once your children are grown, your youth has faded and your health has deteriorated, the forsaken dreams you left behind in the pursuit of success and money can’t be recaptured. That time has passed forever. We all know people who worked to make enough money to travel and enjoy the many pleasures of life only to discover that by the time they finally “arrived,” they were unable to do so because they’d waited too long.

Your life is happening right now. There’s room within it for everything you desire, including making money and enjoying the multitude of other things that bring you happiness and pleasure. Once you’re mindful about your life and work and have the skills to achieve vital balance, you won’t have to work so hard to experience the happiness and success you want.

And, at the end of your life, you won’t regret having worked too hard.